After a three-year organizing campaign, the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition (“RTCNYC ”) won a landmark victory in 2017, making NYC the first city in the country to establish a right to legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction proceedings. The Right to Counsel Bill (Intro 214) was signed into law in August 2017 and represented a huge shift in the inherent injustice built into housing courts. Over the next 5 years, this new right will be phased in by zip code throughout the city.
By July 2022, all NYC low-income tenants will have a right to an attorney to defend their homes. Since Intro 214 was passed, housing advocates and community organizers across the country began reaching out to RTCNYC to ask how they won the campaign. In response, RTCNYC, together with TakeRoot Justice, developed an online toolkit that shares the story of how RTCNYC organized to win the right to counsel, and shares the tools, documents and organizing activities the coalition used throughout the campaign. Those tools and documents have been adapted and modified for the public to use as they work to win the right to counsel in their own communities. RTCNYC is currently engaged in a new phase of advocacy and organizing work focused on implementation of the law.
RTCNYC and TakeRoot are excited to announce the Right to Counsel Toolkit. The toolkit offers invaluable tools for housing advocates and shares how the coalition kept the campaign grounded in the tenant movement and in the ongoing struggle for economic justice. RTCNYC also has printed versions of the toolkit which are being shared with organizers.
To learn more about the experience of tenants in housing court and the efforts led by organizers to reform it, check out our 2013 report Tipping the Scales: A Report of Tenant Experiences in Bronx Housing Court. This report was a predecessor to RTCNYC’s campaign and was the result of TakeRoot’s partnership with New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments (“CASA”), which would later become the anchor organization for RTCNYC.
To celebrate the launch of the toolkit, RTCNYC and TakeRoot hosted two webinars in December 2018 and shared the history of the campaign while walking the audience through the tools.